Acts

F W Grant.

Division 4. (Acts 21–28.)

Into the Roman Prison.

The last division of the Acts is plainly of a very different character from those before it. The progress of the gospel is over; the chief evangelist, the apostle to whom is committed the whole Gentile field, is shut up in prison, not (as far as the history given to us goes) to escape from it again, whatever partial relief might be obtained. Rome, the capital of the world, shows herself, only less bitterly, alas, than Israel, the enemy of God and of His grace. The word of God is indeed not bound; it is His word who is over all, and who is with it; but its ministers are confessors, and its witnesses are martyrs. There is no conversion of the world, nor does it change its prince; and it is prophetic of the future of Christendom itself the welcome that Rome extends to Paul and to his gospel, the fullest chords of whose music sound from the place of his captivity.

It should not be strange to find therefore, in the whole narrative before us now, the prophetic character (which indeed underlies all Scripture history) becoming very manifest. The broad features are of the clearest, although details may be often hard to read. Legalism has been all through, and not simply at the beginning, more than the profane world itself, the enemy of the gospel, and the inspiration of the world in its attacks upon it. Rome has been judaized, never truly Christianized; and judaized Rome has had more martyrs than Pagan Rome ever had. Babylon the Great is the false woman on the wild beast's back, — the seven-hilled city in her "mystery" phase. But it is enough here to indicate in general terms what is before us; the details will develop as we proceed.

Subdivision 1. (Acts 21:1-14.)

Forewarnings.

Not without full warning does the apostle come into soldier's chain. God utters His voice with absolute plainness, and it is not due to any lack in this respect that the disaster happens which occupies so many pages of the Acts. We see here a reason why it could not be in its totality the Acts of Jesus; why the Acts of the apostles do not fully represent these. The voice of the Lord is heard now in protest against the act of one of His most devoted servants; even although that act itself is one of complete self-sacrifice, and although it is permitted for purposes of wise and holy, far-reaching design. There is no more mystery here than in a multitude of the ways of Him around whom in divine government clouds and darkness so often are. He can be completely over what He cannot sanction in anywise; and what an immense comfort is it to know this! What a confusion would the world be if it were not so! whereas the very exercise which this now involves for us is itself most truly helpful in that discernment of good and evil in which so much of our education here consists.

The warning given is a double one. The apostle is first told, plainly and unequivocally, not to go to Jerusalem; and then the consequences of going are put before him. Had the latter been announced alone, with one such as Paul, they might not have been sufficient; coming after the other, they reiterate the prohibition. Spite of all, the apostle certainly sees nothing of the kind; there is a veil over his eyes very solemn indeed in character, by reason of its being that of an impulse possessing him so exalted and so pathetic as was that love to Israel which he himself has recorded for us in the epistle to the Romans 9:1-4. That epistle was written in contemplation of this very journey (Rom. 15:25); he had long treasured in his heart the thought of it, and the apparent failure of his previous attempt to reach the object of his desire had only perhaps made more absorbing that desire. Under the control of this he seems incapable of realizing any hindrance to its effectuation. Ready to any extent to sacrifice himself, how could it be possible that God should be against that which was in fact the fruit of the Spirit of Christ?

1. He wrenches himself away therefore from the beloved Ephesian disciples, a need greater than theirs pressing him on; and with a straight course and all things favoring, pursues his voyage to the Syrian coast. At Tyre he lands, and there they find disciples, with whom they remain seven days; and now comes the first distinct intimation from more than one of these, speaking by the Spirit, "that he should not set foot in Jerusalem." It is strange to find, spite of the explicitness of this, Lechler contending that it was only the knowledge of Paul's sufferings in Jerusalem that they had by the illumination of the Spirit, while "the entreaty itself, that Paul should not visit Jerusalem where such dangers awaited him, was not dictated by the Holy Ghost, but was prompted solely by human opinions and affections." He appeals, of course, not to the passage before him. but to the prophecy of Agabus which was after this, and to the language of the apostle himself in Acts 20:23, which we have already considered, in proof of what he advances; but such a way of reading Scripture could make almost anything of it. Not a word is said here about any sufferings that were to result from the visit, but "they said by the Spirit that he should not" go there. If this were not prophecy, as we know it could not have been, then it could only be guidance; and we may notice again how fully it is confirmed to the apostle by the mouth of at least two witnesses. It is quite true that he is not really guided by it, and we may not be able to account fully for his neglect of such an intimation; but we must not set aside the plain words which we find here, and which alone put in its true light much that follows, as well as some things that have gone before. Certainly there was upon Paul the spell of a wondrous love, if we do not say, its delirium; a love, which those for whom it was, rejected, as they did the much more wondrous love of the Son of God, of which this was but the reflection. Had he not caught it in the glory of that Face, into which, we know, he was habitually looking?

Another farewell scene is depicted for us here with these brethren of Tyre, who with wives and children accompany their visitors to the ship, and with prayer take leave of them. A shadow of what is at hand seems falling upon these little companies of believers, which is lightened up with the tender constancy of an affection which has in it the assurance of eternity.

2. The party of Paul take ship once more, coasting the Syrian shore to Ptolemais, which we now call Acre, where again they find disciples; few towns there were now, no doubt, without them. And next day they are at Caesarea, at the house of that Philip the evangelist with whose work at Samaria we are well acquainted. We have here a glimpse of what helps us to realize the way in which the gifts of the Spirit were manifested through the assemblies. Philip has four daughters, all prophetesses, a lovely picture just put before us, one would say, that we might admire it (for we have nothing of them more than this), perhaps that we may remember that the same Spirit is with us still, and that we may covet, as we are exhorted to do, the gifts of His grace. We may also understand that women as such are not shut out from them, however there may be for them (as women) a suited sphere for their exercise. It is nature that has marked out this sphere; which grace does not set aside, nor limit on this account the fulness of blessing that may be theirs who covet it. How good it would be to see more of this coveting in faith, and that we would put to the proof in faith these assurances that are given us. How great would be the result, not to the individual only, but in the assembly as a whole, of believing hearts that craved from God their portion! We have not, because we ask not; we ask and have not, because our prayers are too much a conflict with God for what, if He granted, it would be disaster for us, instead of desires that rise after those blessings which are laid up for us in Christ already, and may be claimed with the full confidence of faith.

One cannot say again with Lechler that this account of Philip's daughters stands in no immediate connection with the events here related. Why should we make our own capacity to discern such things the measure of what is really in them; disparaging Scripture in the proportion in which we elevate ourselves above it? When the Church is being left of its great apostle, is it not suitable that we should be shown how fully, nevertheless, the endowment of the Spirit is upon it, even in its weakest members? that the Lord's care for it neither fails nor is abridged; and that it need neither fail nor fear because of this?

But Philip's daughters have no prophecy for Paul: it is Agabus of whom we have heard before, who, coming down from Judea, announces to him that which awaits him from the people upon whom his heart is set. It is Paul's own girdle, however, that binds his hands and feet; that is, it is his own zealous service to them that puts him into their hands. The meaning is given to him, and in the most emphatic way, as a declaration of the Spirit, of the Holy Spirit, who thus reveals to His servant the unchanged evil in the hearts of those once the murderers of the Saviour, and now ready to be his own. Was not He too delivered to the Gentiles? a likeness which could not but affect the apostle, so closely to follow in his Master's steps. Yet was not that Gentile cross to which they gave him up the very symbol of salvation for men? So with himself also, might the apostle argue, if this were but a means by which the tardy hearts of Israel were to be smitten to repentance, would not suffering be light that should have this result? So when those around begin in their distress to beseech him not to go up to Jerusalem, he is fixed and resolute, moved by their tears indeed, but not altered. Did they not know him ready even to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus? But the Spirit had spoken nothing about death. The captivity of years, shut up from the work he loved, and with which he was so identified, would it not be worse than any death could be? How if he had recognized it as the shadow of that setting aside of his gospel also, in days not far off?

And in fact such an intimation we, at least, may read in it. The judaizing of the Church, which he had already been called so earnestly to contend against, was to be a worse enemy to the free grace of God he published than this Jewish people now menacing himself. Alas, it would be armed with all the natural resistance of the self-righteous heart against that which humbles it, even while it exalts immeasurably the soul once humbled. Who that knows anything of himself but has known this Jew in him, not one of God's Israel indeed, but such as confronted Christ and now Paul, with his circumcision of flesh, and not of heart, and his steadfast resistance to the truth at all points. Such in the professing church at a later day the Lord Himself characterizes as those "who say they are Jews, but are not, but are the synagogue of Satan:" words which let in a terrible light upon the degradation ensuing upon their prevalence (as prevail they did), and which changed the heavenly to the earthly, spirit to flesh, grace to law, the company chosen out of the world into a confusion of Church and world together; the adversary's attack by low imitation upon that which Christ is sanctifying, cleansing it by washing of water by the Word, to present it to Himself a glorious Church!

We can understand by this, not only the apostle's captivity — that is, his gospel's, — but how this Judaism (false to the core, as false in its abuse of Christian names) gave up what it had first polluted into the hands of the world, and thus riveted the chains of a long captivity. Sad it is, though profitable, to trace, step by step, the awful transformation. It is not for us to do it now; it is enough to show how fully the history which is before us here has its spiritual counterpart in that of the Church afterwards. Judaism had only the external form of separation from the world, which could not yet be actual; the new Judaism coming in after the separation was accomplished, brought back (and of course into the place of power) the world once more. It was the Babylonish captivity of the Church of God.

Subdivision 2. (Acts 21:15 – 22:29.)

The Arrest.

The story of how Paul actually falls into the hands of his enemies implicates the Christians in Jerusalem, who by their advice, which he takes, and to satisfy their zeal for the law, puts himself into the very place of chiefest danger, and where the presence of one known to advocate the equal footing of Jew and Gentile would be sure to lash the unconverted Jew to fury. His own compliance, though from pure desire to be to the Jew a Jew, to win the Jew, yet not only puts him into the hands of his enemies, but takes him off the higher ground upon which he habitually walked, and renders his steps less certain. It is a painful history all round.

1. The cause of Paul's arrest is traced briefly but clearly, and shown to rest with the Jewish Christians. Before we come to this, it will not be amiss to note that it cannot be for nothing that we are told of the place in which the apostle at this time lodges: some meaning must certainly attach to this, whether or not we are able to find the meaning; and some relation there must be also to the narrative with which it is connected. Those also who believe in God's absolute control of history, and that Scripture everywhere shows this control, can have no difficulty in accepting a meaning flashed out of a name as a true, if hidden, indication of the mind of God. Now Mnason, at whose house Paul lodges at this time, is from a word which means "to sue for, court," and Paul is certainly here as a suitor, and in a strange place for him: he is in a place not his own. The man in Christ, which he has but lately told others it was all his boast to be (2 Cor. 12:5), is here in the guise of one walking orderly and keeping the law. And it is the suit he has in hand that brings him down to this. He is really lodging with Mnason, the disciple from the beginning, or early disciple, as the term used is. Was it not, in fact, such early disciples, belonging to the time when Christians could be reckoned but as a sect of the Jews, among whom would naturally be found those of whom it was asserted as a universal truth that they were "all zealots for the law"? Mnason himself would be actually included here. Could Paul be ranged among these? No one could imagine it. But he certainly was laboring to make himself acceptable to these. No doubt, the law was to him a thing indifferent, and that it was his acknowledged principle to become to the Jew a Jew, that he might gain the Jew. But would they not have understood by it something more? and does not "walking orderly and keeping the law" imply that he belonged to the house of Mnason, rather than that he was but lodging there? There surely was not a selfish thought in the apostle's heart. He was walking in the spirit of pure self-sacrifice, to win his Jewish kindred to the Lord; but if he had declared to them his exact position with regard to it — "to those under the law as under the law, not being myself under the law" (1 Cor. 9:20, R.V.), would it have been, could it have been, a means of winning them?

The meeting that is pictured for us as taking place is at James' house, and with the elders. The apostles seem by this time to have scattered from Jerusalem, and nothing is mentioned with regard to them. Nor indeed does James himself seem to take any prominent part, such as he took at the council to decide the place of Gentile converts with respect to the law. It is more than possible that those most fanatical as to Moses were the most forward, as they had indeed made their voices to be heard first on the former occasion. Paul himself, in the natural progress of divine revelation, had doubtless made advance, while it would be well if under the influence of their alarm at the steadily growing questions involved by the increasing Gentile element in the assemblies, these had not gone backward. There was a strong feeling abroad as to Paul, and a multitude behind who must needs come together. While it was the nation still in unbelief of which Paul was surely thinking, he is faced with this opposition first to be encountered of the converted and Christian Jews. On their side they must needs recognize also the wondrous work of divine grace which God has been working by him among the nations. They will make no doubt that all the reports that have come to them concerning him are but perversions. They are ready to assume that he is really as good a Jew as ever; what they propose to him then is not a concession: it is a justification of himself from calumny merely. Let the Gentiles, as they have conceded, remain Gentiles; he could not have taught the Jews to apostatize from Moses, and not to circumcise their children, nor to walk according to the customs. Let him take then these four men who, being believers like himself, could yet bind themselves with the Nazarite vow, and presenting himself with them in the temple purified, take upon him the expenses necessary for their completion of it, and that publicly, that all might recognize clearly his own relation to the law.

Nothing is proposed to him, as many have thought, about taking upon himself the vow in question. He is merely to purify himself ceremonially, for his appearance in the temple, and it was no new thing that they advised, but what is known to have been done by others very near the time at which all this took place. In fact there was nothing in all that was advised that the apostle could not have done with a good conscience as a part of his privilege to give up his own liberty in toleration of the ignorant infirmity of others; but the question returns, and will return: Was it to be understood in this way? Here among "zealots for the law," there was indeed ignorance on every side; could he then adapt himself to this, raising no question, leaving them to grow into the truth, as necessarily they would? not forcing any, as in fact he had never forced, — tolerant where God yet was tolerant? Could he not in such a case, without professing anything where it was at present hopeless to bring round this mass of prejudiced opposition to the higher truth, as he saw and followed it, simply go through the ceremonial as they prescribed it to him, and remove out of his way this hindrance to that upon which his heart was set, the proclamation of Christ to his kindred by one whose very advocacy itself was evidence of the truth that he proclaimed, who with his own eyes had seen Christ Jesus the Lord, and had seen men bow before that sacred Name as he had?

Yes, it was indeed vain to expect to quell in any other way the storm that was beginning to manifest itself, though in its first zephyr breathings. He had seen the whirlwinds of Jewish passion aroused in the very midst of the Gentiles, and able to carry with them the Gentiles themselves, otherwise cynical and indifferent. What would it be with such questions started here where the crowd was one, and Christians too were in zealous opposition to whatever seemed to touch the authority of Moses?

But what then did all this do but echo the words which shortly were to come home to him with terrible confirmation as he faced the wild tumult from the castle-stairs, "They will not receive thy testimony concerning Me"? The apostle of the Gentiles must renounce all hope of being God's messenger to Israel; and he who sought it, spite of the burning, uncalculating love that had brought him there, was necessarily out of the path to which God had called him. The testimony to Christ indeed was to be permitted him, though it could but demonstrate once more the hardness of heart to which they could only be given up. The Lord would and does own His faithful servant in a testimony, to which He would not nevertheless have sent him. Over it all He was; and the history of that which follows becomes, as has been said, the prophecy of long centuries to come, in which such scenes would be in principle re-enacted upon a larger scale. History is averred to repeat itself, and the reason is obvious: for man repeats himself; and poor fallen man is in every generation but the reflection of his father Adam. And where God's grace has made a difference, still there remains even here a nature which maintains but too much of the likeness. God's hand has overruled in this case to forecast the future for our instruction; yet even this could not be so impressive and complete if it were not founded upon a similarity of moral elements which in their inter-working present a more than superficial parallel. It is a parallel of causes as well as effects, — fruits and consequences which we can trace to roots and seeds which are in ourselves also, and present grounds of real and profitable self-judgment.

2. The counsel of the elders is acted on by the apostle. He does not, for he could not, declare himself under the law. He treats them all, one would say, as those who were not ripe for disclosures of this nature, which must wait for a fit season to be made. Enough that he can undertake this charge and perform this purification in the same way in which he had circumcised Timothy some time since. The shadows for him had passed in that which had fulfilled them: these with their zeal for the law were in the shadow still, and he must wait upon God for their deliverance. But it is evident, nevertheless, that here he is in no position to help them, but that his present action must encourage them in their own. But his heart presses him on to reach a place in which his voice may be heard with acceptance by his people, and he stoops to the present sacrifice required: to what it will lead on he does not know.

In fact, the plan seems to be working well; the days are almost completed, when that comes of which he has been warned. Some Jews from Asia find him in the temple, having seen him previously in the city with an Ephesian Greek — one of his Gentile "nurselings," as they might taunt him, from the name. Outside, they had endured him, as it seems, or at least had refrained from an attack; but now this man with his disreputable tastes had dared invade the sanctuary itself; doubtless the same man inside, as he had been out: he had brought his Greek there, no doubt. Instantly there flashes out the wrath of the impetuous, haughty race. The city is moved, and the people run together, and dragging him out, shut to the temple-gates. Paul is in those well-known hands that spare not; and only by the intervention of God the Romans become his saviors from the violence of the raging mob! The plan which appeared so reasonable has ended only in disaster: Paul need take no more trouble to appease the Christian Jews, and is in the very worst possible position to reach the unbelieving ones!

It is significant that Lysias, the chief captain's name, means "one who looses, or delivers," and that nothing but the Roman arms in fact accomplished the deliverance Of the believing Jews from the legal system in which they were bound up. It was not to be more than a decade, if so much, until that temple which was its necessary centre and heart should be overthrown, according to our Lord's prophecy, by the Roman power, and the people scattered over the face of the earth. Their house, long bereft of the divine Presence, but where alone the blood of atonement could be offered for their sins, and with which all their ritual was connected, was taken from them utterly, and the system ended, although unbelief might still grip it with dead hands. In the rejection of the grace which was now going out to the Gentiles, they had rejected that which was their only possible salvation, and judgment in brief time followed; though not before the last word should be uttered by him whom in fact, though not in form, they had delivered to the Gentiles, bidding the true in heart amongst them go forth out of the camp (Heb. 13:13). That he should have the last word for them, who had sought them with such earnest desire, was the divine recognition of him whom they had treated with unworthy suspicion, and betrayed, however undesignedly, into the hands of his enemies. "According to the wisdom given to him," says the apostle of the circumcision, "our beloved brother Paul has written to you" (2 Peter 3:15). The voice that had been closed by their own folly while among them now spoke in all the majesty of the truth which could no more be silenced.

3. Yet he is permitted also here one last appeal in behalf of his Lord and Saviour. Won by the demeanor of his prisoner, the chief captain gives him leave to address the mob from whom he has rescued him; and Paul uses his liberty to relate to them the story of his conversion and of the revelation made to him. He reasons with them, reminding them of his past, in which he too had shown himself with as much false zeal for God as they were now showing. As men do commonly, he had followed the belief in which he had been trained, as both the high priest and elders could bear witness of him, persecuting to the death believers in Christ, whether they were men or women, and even hunting for them beyond the borders of the land. Nothing had stopped him but that intervention from heaven itself which had revealed to him Jesus the Nazarene in glory! Those with him had seen also the light, but had not heard the words* that were uttered, which were for himself alone. He had heard the Lord declare Himself the One he persecuted. Blinded by the glory of that light, he was led into Damascus, there to await, as he was bidden, further revelations.

{*This is in effect the difference between the statement here and that in Acts 9:7, in which it is said that those with him heard the voice: this is the genitive case, and speaks a partial hearing, — the sound of it but not the utterance, as the accusative in the present instance — the voice at full length.}

Paul narrates more fully than the previous history has done, the visit of Ananias, — "a pious man," as he remarks, according to the law," — through whom at once his sight is restored to him, and he is declared to be one chosen by the God of their fathers to know His will and see the *Righteous One, and hear, as a special witness for Him, a voice out of His mouth. Then he is bidden to be baptized, and have his sins washed away, as he thus owns the authority of Jesus. It is a clear example of baptismal remission of sins on entering the kingdom: on God's part he who truly bows to Christ is absolutely forgiven; but on man's part, as openly admitted by baptism, this can be but a conditional announcement, available, not for introduction into heaven, but into the company of disciples upon earth. As a kingdom of truth (John 18:37) the kingdom means discipleship.

{*It is striking that the apostle does not mention the name of the Lord Jesus but once in this entire address, omitting it even where, as in verse 18, it would most naturally be used. This is due, perhaps, to a desire to avoid further inflaming the Jews. — S.R.}

The crowd listens to this yet, spite of the claim made for the Crucified One: but we are soon to find that this is not acceptance. The apostle comes now to what is pressing upon his spirit, as he looks upon those dark, upturned faces, upon which one can imagine, however restrained as yet, that he sees the storm gathering. What can he presage else, as he repeats, emphasized as they are by recent occurrences, words from the lips of truth itself which had long since warned him, "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me." How he must have watched them as he related his ineffectual pleading at that time! "Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those that believe in Thee; and when the blood of thy witness* Stephen was shed, I also was standing by and consenting, and keeping the garments of those who slew him!" Was Paul not just the witness now to be believed?

{*It is touching to remember that Paul is here making a definite confession, before the people, many of whom had doubtless witnessed his mad zeal, of his own sinful persecution of Stephen. — S.R.}

But He who spoke had broken off appeal: "Go," He said: "for I will send thee to the nations afar off."

4. For what then was he standing there? and what was in his mind as he declared thus to their face their unrepentant stubbornness? Would he break them down by it, even then, that they might show it to be but a thing of the past, and no longer applicable? Or did it announce the hopelessness which had now taken possession of him, the past and present linking themselves together rapidly in his mind, as when facing death they are known often to come up? If so, it was confirmed in a moment as he stood before them plainly avowed, the apostle of the Gentiles.* At once the short quiet is over. All the arrogant pride of an elect people, with which all that should humble man most may in fact inspire him, burst out of that heaving and gesticulating human mass confronting him, crying out madly for his death. The Roman captain, baffled by the foreign tongue that had been made use of, and conceiving by the outcry that there must be some proportionate cause, commands to examine Paul by scourging. It was the custom of the day, and for many a day; but from which the Roman citizen was exempted. Paul, as we know, was that; and his simple question, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?" brings the chief captain to inquire, and ends the matter. That the apostle was well within his legal rights, none can, of course, question; but it has been questioned whether it was according to the height of the truth which he proclaimed to plead such rights; but the governments of the earth have always their place with Paul, and are recognized as a ministry of God for good to His people; why not thankfully use them for that, when it needed only a word of information to secure it, and there was not a thought of resistance?** With the man in Christ, as such, the governments of the earth have nought to do; nor is it to forget such a place to realize that as the creatures of God, still upon the earth, we have other relations than those implied by this. All natural relationships lie outside of it; while the peace and power and object of the man in Christ are to go with us everywhere, through all.

{*Both conclusions could be drawn, and both may have been in the apostle's mind. Certainly it seems clear that the Spirit of God intended us to draw these conclusions. But it looks, too, as if Paul were just entering upon an extended account of his work among the Gentiles, in order to lead up to a defense of his course, and more particularly in explanation of that for which he had been arrested. In his address before Felix he seems to resume the defense just where it was broken off here (Acts 24:11-19). — S.R.

**And yet it is for his own protection that Paul speaks. He had not done so at Philippi, having submitted to the cruel indignity of being beaten by Roman magistrates (Acts 16:22). He seems only to have spoken of his citizenship on the next day for the purpose of removing any stigma that might attach to the Christian name. The magistrates are compelled tacitly to remove the stigma.

But here Paul claims Roman citizenship, even emphasizing his free birth, as he had already declared he was a citizen of no mean city. In the next chapter he declares himself a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. While this last is far worse than the others, we cannot fail linking them together. The fact remains that the beloved and honored servant of Christ was in a false position all through, and these various acts savor a little of that spirit of compromise to which he had committed himself — S.R.}

Subdivision 3. (Acts 22:30 — 23:35.)

Before the Special People of God.

Paul still awaits his trial before the supreme court of Israel, which should have been, and was professedly, the spiritual court, before the heads of the people set apart from all others as the special people of God. The place and title had been indeed long forfeited, but not the responsibility of being what the claim implied. The trial becomes in fact that of themselves in this character. As a trial of Paul, it has no result, but breaks up in confusion: its own trial is all the more perfect; its incompetence is absolute. The people have already manifested themselves; and they are what their leaders have made them; not irresponsible on that account, but most guilty in yielding themselves to such leadership. We have here the head, Ananias; the body, disunited on every essential point. In contrast with all this we have lastly the judgment of the Lord Himself, who owns His faithful servant in his witness to Him. After this he has to be once more saved by the Gentile power from a conspiracy against his life; which at the same time shifts the scene to Caesarea, and brings him before the tribunal of the world.

1.(1) The court of Israel sits at the bidding of the Roman commander: a significant sign of where they were before God. Lysias, unable to gather the cause of so much frenzy and confusion, summons the Sanhedrin, that the charge against Paul may be made clear. The latter, with his eyes fixed upon his judges, affirms his having lived in all good conscience before God until that day. Conscience is not the standard by which man is to be judged; nor does the apostle mean therefore to affirm this. It is simply his uprightness of which he is speaking; and indeed especially in those later and Christian days, in which alone they would care to question it. There was no accusing voice within, from which he would seek escape, which he had (or had had) to silence. He did not come as a criminal to throw himself upon their mercy, but as one pledged to the truth, to maintain it. His unblenching look was fixed upon his judges as he said this, confirming his bold words.

But the anger of the high priest is roused at once, and he commands those standing by him to smite Paul on the mouth. It was the only answer he could give, and showed, perhaps, the sting of his own conscience, which the apostle embodied for him then, and which he was accustomed to treat only as an enemy. Paul at once announces his judgment from God: "God is about to judge thee, whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me according to law, and in breach of law commandest me to be smitten?" This is not an imprecation, as is plain; it is the announcement of judgment on the part of God, and was fulfilled at the outbreak of the troubles which began the last Jewish war. Paul is here passed from the place of the accused altogether, into that of judge; and he was not one to take so solemn a place without realizing what he was doing. The high priests of this time were in fact a sorrowful indication of the condition of the people, as they were also their official representatives. Paul knew not in this case that the "whited wall," — the painted hypocrite to whom he addressed himself, — was the high priest; and he apologizes when he learns the fact; although with the text he quotes he puts the man whom they call "God's high priest" upon no higher ground than "a ruler of Thy people." It has been said, and rightly, surely, that the Holy Spirit could not say, "I knew not;" yet the Spirit doubtless was in the judgment pronounced; and the indignation shown by Paul had so much justification that, remembering his own words at another time, "Be angry and sin not," and realizing that there is a necessary anger at iniquity, which is sinless, one hesitates to say whether he had passed the limit.

Of much more importance it seems than to decide as to the apostle, it is to realize that the Spirit must have used the very lack of knowledge on Paul's part to lay bare the iniquity that was upon the head of Israel's priesthood now, and the doom that was impending. If a shadow that priesthood was at any time, now it was but the shadow of a shadow. Out of these forms all semblance of life had departed; and they must by the law of nature vanish away.

(2) There follows the further testimony of a house divided against itself, and that in the most important matters. Moreover that which was most contrary to God — which indeed destroyed the very foundations — was in the ascendancy, not indeed in regard to the number of its followers, who were few, but nevertheless possessed at this time of the chief places. The comfortless doctrine of the Sadducees which denied all future life for man could never appeal to the masses, but remained as the justification of those too rich and well satisfied with the present to trouble about the future. It was the unbelief of immortality; not a faith, but a blight of faith. Between Sadducee and Pharisee the friction was necessarily of the extremest kind, although they might band together for a common purpose, which was then sure to be of the most evil character.

None knew better than Paul this essential opposition. With the Pharisees also he had a link, in all this doctrine which the Sadducee wholly denied. Of this he now avails himself: was it to throw confusion merely among those who were alike in hostility to the Name which was all his glory? or had he the hope, slight as it might be, of working upon the more orthodox by an appeal to the truth they had? All that could be spoken of as "the hope," and which connected itself more fully for the Christian than even for the Pharisee with the resurrection of the dead, separated both from the chief men in the council there. As between these, Paul's claim to be a Pharisee would certainly be justified; that he would have made it in any other connection one can hardly believe. But we are bound to impute, and with such an one as the apostle, the highest motive possible for what he did. He is clearly not at his highest. Yet he might have discerned that here there was no opportunity for his great theme, which must have been well known to these his judges, even if they had not been amongst the crowd that listened to him from the castle stairs; and he might have realized that now the suggestion of the link between Pharisaism and Christianity was the best seed he could sow on soil like that before him. In fact there seems a certain success in it. Could they have been ignorant how much they were admitting when they allowed that perhaps a spirit or an angel might have spoken to Paul? We cannot follow this to any after results, but that does not justify us in declaring that there were none, or in thinking even that this was not all that could be done upon this occasion in testimony to Christ. Certainly we have no right to suppose that that devoted love to his people which had made him in face of all assurances as to the result put himself thus into their hands, had failed him now that he was there, and that he was merely trying to throw his foes into disorder as a means of escape for himself: he as to whom the Spirit in every city bore witness that bonds and afflictions awaited him.

But the effect, as far as we are given to trace it, seems to be more to expose the condition of things in Israel than to alter anything. The very men who here are ready apparently to go far in admission of the divine claim of Christianity would soon repent their hasty speech. The council, having exhibited its incapacity for righteous judgment, breaks up in mere confusion; Paul being once more saved out of their hands by those who are thus allowed to show their true title over them. Israel itself it is that is under judgment, and that in the chief seat of wisdom and authority.

(3) The apostle has accomplished nothing by his earnest self-devotion; he is manifestly out of his place, and the power realized in his labors among the Gentiles is not with him here. All the more, now that this has been fully manifest, does he find the divine arm thrown round him, and himself get the ministry that he needs to sustain him in this failure of cherished hopes. "The night following, the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good courage; for as thou hast borne full witness at Jerusalem of the things concerning me, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."

How beautiful the strong expression, "full witness!" It might have seemed that he had not had opportunity for this. And how much cause of exercise and sad questioning might there be in regard to this! That which he had been warned of had taken place; the warning which he had not heeded. Whatever might have been the motive, how vain to run contrary to the dictates of a Wisdom which was at the same time the perfection of Love! Yet He at least could sympathize with His servant's sorrow who had wept His own tears over Jerusalem, and had to say too, as he was saying, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain." And the Lord gives him too in his sorrow to have part also in His consolation, "yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God." It might seem as if the Lord were even thinking of such reflections as we would be apt to make upon the disappointed and sorrow-stricken laborer, and were throwing around him the shield of His acceptance. He who has done worthily at Jerusalem shall have committed to him the same testimony at Rome! How well He knows that this is Paul's blessedness to bear witness for Him! How He assures him of strength that shall be with him to carry him through; and that all the might of the world is powerless against him! Blessed be God that this remains in its comfort abidingly for those to whom the world will have the same Marah-spring to offer, which the "Tree" alone can sweeten.

So he goes back to his old call as the apostle of the Gentiles, if he be now "an ambassador in chains." Rome! what treatment will the proud city of the world give to an ambassador in chains?

2. The council is not, however, the Jews' last answer to the gospel of God's grace. Their moral state comes out still more in the conspiracy which follows to lie in wait for Paul and kill him. The forty or more pledge themselves to it by a religious vow, and then communicate their plan to the chief priests and elders, without a thought, evidently of opposition on their part, nor that they will do aught but help on their design. And plainly they are not mistaken, although we hear nothing more about it, as God in His providential care for His servant causes the whole to fall to the ground. At the right moment Paul's sister's son, of whom we have not heard before, comes forward to declare what has come to his knowledge; and Lysias, now thoroughly aroused, sends off his prisoner, well protected by an escort, to the governor at Caesarea. That he seeks to make capital out of his zeal on behalf of a Roman citizen, stretching the truth considerably in order to do so, scarcely calls for remark, so thoroughly is it the way of the world at all times. By this act Paul is transferred from the Jews, tribunal to that of the Gentiles, though the Jews are still his accusers to the end. If Jerusalem can no more put to death the prophets herself, she will use the hands of others as far as she can influence them. We are now to see Paul therefore at Caesar's judgment seat.

Subdivision 4. (Acts 24 – 26.)

Before the world's tribunal.

1. Before the governor the Jewish charge is quickly estimated at its worth; but that does not end it. Self-interest governs all; though conscience may feebly make its voice heard. As before the Jewish council, the judges are really those that are being judged, although there is no denunciation of judgment, as in the high priest's case. Christ came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

Felix, the "happy," the first of the two governors with whom we have here to do, does all that man's will combined with power can do to make good his name. Man turned away from God, and disbelieving His love and care, necessarily cares for himself, and counts it pleasure to do his own will. Violence and corruption went together in him: the two characters of the world at large. His wife Drusilla, who is mentioned presently, a Jewess, and the sister of Agrippa, had been seduced by him from the king of Emesa, her former husband. "With all cruelty and licentiousness," says the Roman historian, "he exercised the authority of a king in the spirit of a slave." He was in fact a freedman of Claudius, who had appointed him governor; and through his brother's influence with the emperor was able to retain his place. By Lysias Paul is presented to him as practically an innocent man; for questions of Jewish law meant little to the heathen. Still, if he were an object of interest to the Jew, the governor might find his own interest in it. His record was not good, and to please the people might be a point of wisdom; not, on the other hand, to give him up to them too easily: there might also be advantage on the other side. This is the way accordingly, in which we find him acting; and we are allowed to see his motives too.

(1) The importance of the prisoner is soon seen by the high priest coming down himself, with some of the elders, and a Latin orator to plead their cause; who with fulsome flattery sets the matter before Felix. "A mover of insurrection" is to appeal to the quick ears of the Roman; "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" shows his importance to themselves. They repeat also the false charge of profanation of the temple, — a matter which he would know was quite competent to cause grave trouble among a people as sensitive in religious externals as were the Jews. By examination the governor might soon convince himself of the truth of what they were saying.

(2) Paul, answering for himself, easily breaks through this web of sophistry. It was but twelve days since he went up to Jerusalem to worship. He had been neither disputing with any, nor making a tumult; and they had no witnesses to produce for the substantiation of their charges! His belonging to what was in their eyes a sect he owns, but a sect of the most perfect orthodoxy according to the law; and he names especially the doctrine of the resurrection (with a probe, perhaps, for the conscience of his judge) of the just and also of the unjust. And with him this was not unpractical creed-holding merely: he exercised himself always to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man.

What resurrection was for the apostle as the basis of Christian confidence and position those that were before him could not be expected to understand. Nor does he go on now to speak of Christ risen, but only urges the power of such a truth as the Roman and the Sadducean Jew alike knew nothing of. But the unjust were to rise, as well as the just. With him it was a sweet and purifying hope; for them what should be a warning of the most solemn character. But what did any of them know about an exercised conscience?

Such however was he; and as they had no witness as to things charged which they knew not, so as to what they did know — his conduct before the council, what complaint could they bring but one that condemned themselves as Jews, that he had declared that with regard to the resurrection of the dead he was called in question?

There was thus no case to decide; except the accusation were itself the proof. The only righteous judgment would be to discharge the prisoner; but that was too simple a solution of the matter for one who knew of nothing so simple as a bribe, and who had heard of alms and offerings for his people that Paul had had in hand. Spite therefore of his accurate knowledge of the "way," as men styled Christianity (the way indeed of life and peace and holiness), Felix simply defers the case till Lysias should come down, though Lysias, judgment he well knew already, and Lysias does not appear even to have been sent for. Delay until on either side some advantage to be gained by him should help him to see better, — this is for him the only straightforward procedure.

Meanwhile, having no grudge against Paul, and a possible interest in his friends, ministering to him, he has his captivity made as light as possible, and would by no means prevent his friends doing this. God is plainly over it in mercy to His servant, while yet the way out of his prison which Felix would think so easy for him, is absolutely barred.

(3) Nevertheless there is with Felix also a certain desire to hear about the new teaching: and he and Drusilla his wife send for Paul to learn about that faith in Christ Jesus, of which at his trial he had said nothing directly. It were no wonder if he with the life that he had lived should be willing to hear of any way not too costly by which he could be given rest as to a future which for such as he can hardly fail to be more or less a subject of disquiet. But it is no wonder if he find in his quest something graver than he thought. Perhaps he had heard that here was a hope for sinners, though without any real apprehension as to the meaning of sin. Here then is his need; and Paul reasons with him of righteousness and temperance and judgment about to come, until the miserable man is frightened.* But he does not yield. The cost is greater than he supposed; he must consider it well, and will not come to any hasty decision. He had adjourned Paul's case; he can adjourn his own: "For the present go thy way," he concludes; "when I can get an opportunity, I will call thee again:" — too common an escape to elicit much wonder, though Felix' words have become an every-day quotation. Opportunities come and go; the preacher is at his elbow, and he even sends for him, with an ulterior purpose in it of winning a bribe; but, of course, in vain: the preacher is incorruptible, like divine justice; for two years this goes on; at the end of which he is succeeded by Porcius Festus; and desiring to gain favor with the Jews, he leaves Paul bound!

{*It is hardly necessary to add that the subject matter of Paul's discourse here is personal righteousness, not "the righteousness of God." Righteous was what Felix was not, nor temperate — therefore judgment to come was all he could look forward to. Well might he tremble. There is no account of what else Paul said, more specifically concerning the faith, it is enough to know Felix refused this testimony; how could he receive the gospel? — S.R.}

2. Another governor appears in Festus, a name singularly akin to Felix and which means "festive, joyous." The world keeps holiday while the saints suffer. More respectable in character than Felix, he is yet not above desiring to do the Jews a favor at the expense of justice. The chief priests and elders would still get rid by foul means of one against whom they can establish nothing, and solicit Festus that he may be brought to Jerusalem for trial, intending to waylay and kill him on the road. But Festus, guided of God, whatever was his own motive, decides that having been taken to Caesarea, he shall remain there, and his accusers bring their charges against him there. The trial is a mere repetition of the former one, with the same utter lack of proof. But here the governor's anxiety to please the Jews is shown, even while he knows, as Paul declares, that he had done them no wrong. Paul therefore appeals, according to his right as a Roman citizen, to Caesar's own judgment and his appeal is admitted. The scene is to shift once more, and the Lord's words to him are to be fulfilled: he is to testify to Him at Rome.

Another question, difficult to answer, has been raised here: Was this appeal according to the mind of God? It is certain that Festus and Agrippa unite to declare a short time after, that it was the only thing that hindered his being set free. This might be looked at as simply the excuse of one who did not want to take the responsibility himself of setting him free, but that it is Agrippa says it. Paul certainly had the assurance also from the Lord that he was to testify at Rome; so that he need not have apprehended anything from the plotting of the Jews. On the other hand, if he were to testify at Rome as at Jerusalem, did not this appeal, in virtue of which he was in fact taken there, seem to him perhaps only the acting in accordance with the divine will? How shall we decide that it was lack of faith, or lack of wisdom on the part of one who surely exceeded any of us in both respects, and who was in the circumstances as we are not, with more perfect knowledge of all that was implied?

If an appeal to Caesar were in itself contrary to Christian principle, then, of course, to make it could not be right under any circumstances, or whoever did it. Nor have we any reason to conclude that it was impossible for an apostle to go seriously astray, as we know Peter did. But, as already noticed, Paul elsewhere fully accepts the "powers that be" as those appointed of God to be the ministers of God for good to men, and there seems no difficulty really in his using them for that. If we know not his motive, in the case of one such as he was, it is merely justice to accredit him with the highest.

3. Before the council of the Jews, and in the two presentations of their charges against him, we do not see Paul free as usual to proclaim his theme. He is hindered by the dogged opposition of those he is meeting, and does little more than repel the accusations made against him. We are now, however, once more to hear him proclaim the grace of which he has been the subject, and before a Jewish king also, the last that was to be before they should be scattered over the face of the earth.

Festus, who is in perplexity as to what to signify concerning him when he is sent to Caesar, takes advantage of the coming of Agrippa to learn more than he has yet been able to do of one about whom the heads of the nation are so much excited, and yet whose main crime seems but to be believing that a man known to have died is alive. Resurrection seems to him to be too foolish a superstition for him to permit himself to say, "alive again."

Agrippa, a Jew, is expert in all such questions; and to him therefore he narrates the case that gives him difficulty, which Felix has left upon his hands. Agrippa is interested in another manner, and would be glad to hear the man himself. Festus answers at once that he shall hear him; and a. public audience is given next day before which Paul shall plead his cause. Little they think of what it means for all there, the hearing they shall give to this poor prisoner!

Paul narrates his conversion, very much as he had narrated it to the crowd before the castle-stairs. The value of it is seen in the threefold account which is thus given us in this inspired book where every word is measured. The differences in these several narratives are not great, and in the last two have respect to the very different audience on each occasion. Agrippa is tolerant and not uninterested, with an air of candor, and an expert in all Jewish questions. Scandalous suspicions attached to his life; yet he was the guardian of the temple, and the high priestly office was in his appointment. Paul addresses him with confidence in his knowledge, and in his belief also in the prophets, while the issue shows a certain effect of the apostle's words upon him, a certain accessibility to conviction, of which he appears himself aware, while he shrinks from it.

Behind him Festus is no bad representative of the Roman of his day, sceptical as the mass were, and proud as they could hardly help being. These two not inaptly stood forth as types of the world of that day, in which the cross was to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness, — little as Festus might have in him of the Greek philosopher, whom the apostle in the passage quoted had especially before him.

Behind these again were the heads in war and peace, the chief captains and magistrates, and all the parade and pomp which as needful to his dignity show man to be so little. The prisoner before them is to answer for himself. With him one soon sees that that is the least part of what he thinks of, though this necessarily gives the form to his address; but his testimony as he tells them before long, is very different from any testimony to himself. He is heaven's ambassador, though in bonds; their own condition and not his is that which moves him. Upon him the light has shone which transfigures all things; while they are in the darkness, needing to be turned from it to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Not that there is menace upon his lips, but persuasion: he is beseeching men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God.

The form of his address only adds to its effectiveness; with the chain upon his wrist, the guerdon that the world has given him for service done to it, the witness to them all of how fully he has accepted the costs of his great office. They may count him mad, but the fire in his eyes is true and steadfast, and fed by no fuel that their world can furnish; — a man who is beyond and inaccessible to them plainly; whose only wish for them — the highest he can wish them — is that they may just be as he is, except those bonds!

He begins with what the Jews in general knew, if only they cared to testify as to it, that he had been himself a Pharisee, one of the strictest sect in Judaism, the zealots of their religion. Now he was being judged, and by Jews! for the very hope which was their national one, secured by the promise of God unto their fathers, and which all their* twelve tribes confessed as their own; earnestly serving God in this assurance! How full of self-contradiction is man, and especially the religious man, in whom yet the power of the truth has not broken down the pride of nature, so as to bring into real subjection to it. Christ was indeed the fulfillment of God's glorious promise, and in a more wonderful way than could have been anticipated by the firmest believer in what was the burden of the prophets. They had slain Him for the very claim He made (in every possible way confirmed) to fulfil this. And when, after the accomplishment of their awful will, the issue proved to have been overruled of God for fullest blessing, and His loving mercy, with increased evidence and miraculous attestation, was announced for their acceptance, they had still met it with malignant opposition, and slaughter of the messengers. Why but because they could not humble themselves to receive grace as grace?

{*Paul includes all Israel. Faith never recognizes anything short of God's thoughts, and Paul here, as James in his epistle, includes all the Israel of God. The nation, to be sure, was scattered and to all appearances irretrievably destroyed, but as Elijah builds God's altar of 12 stones, so Paul here, speaking for the remnant, looks forward to the restoration of blessing to the nation on the basis of resurrection: "After two days will He revive us in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight" (Hosea 6:2). In the Revelation we see the 12,000 sealed from each tribe. — S.R.}

Thus Paul the Pharisee was condemned by Pharisees for faith in the fulfilment of their chiefest hope; his testimony also including that of resurrection, which the Pharisees confessed, and yet refused. But "why," he asks, "should it be thought an incredible thing by you, if God raiseth the dead?" He appeals against the unbelief which constantly assumes to ground itself upon reason, to reason itself. Admit a God who once created all things, and the credibility of resurrection becomes merely a question of satisfactory testimony to it.

God had overthrown in his own case an opposition which exceeded. With him the call of duty itself urged him against every follower of the Nazarene; and beyond the land he pursued them in his madness to foreign cities. He was the apostle of Jewish hatred, with commission from the religious leaders of the people, when at midday, in the midst of his company, and in active prosecution of his self-sought mission, that took place which had changed all for him henceforth. Heaven from its home of light poured forth a radiance brighter than the sun — brightness not darkness, and not a vision of terror, though human strength collapsed under it; and prostrate on the earth, he heard from the glory revealed One who spoke in the tongue of the old revelation, and to him with familiar knowledge, Himself unknown: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me It is hard for thee to kick against the goads."*

{*This last expression seems to suggest that the goad had been long applied, and that Paul had been resisting. Was not Stephen's address a goad which Paul had resisted, and his testimony to the Lord's being at the right hand of God? Surely these and doubtless the patience and the testimonies of many whom he had persecuted were divinely intended as goads for his conscience. But he had resisted all till this overwhelming testimony made it impossible to do so any longer. — S.R.}

How completely is grace joined with the authority which manifestly belongs to the glorious Speaker! and how unanswerable the question which might have been a sentence, but which seeks only the soul's judgment of itself! Saul can plead, what indeed he afterwards declares to be the only ground upon which mercy could have been shown him, the ignorance which was nevertheless the result of unbelief. "And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."

How wondrous a revolution in a few moments of time, from the fanatic pride of the legalist to the consciousness of one who is chief of sinners; from the ardent hunter down of Christians to the earnest disciple of Christ! How must the apostle have questioned, with his eyes upon the assemblage, whether the Lord were not revealing Himself in like manner to some there who were traveling with him as he spoke, to the place of unexpected meeting. And immediately he goes on to declare his commission to all such, as servant of this same Jesus, and witness of the things which then and afterwards he had learned of Him.

The next words define the new place of the Christian, taken out from Israel and from the Gentiles alike, to the latter of whom Paul is distinctly sent. It has been said that Paul was in fact taken out of Israel only, and not out of the nations; and that the thought therefore must be, as in the common version, that of delivering rather; but if he were taken out from Israel, it was important to say that this was not to give him the mere position of a Gentile. There might seem to be but the one or other, but the Christian has another and heavenly place, as on earth simply that of a pilgrim and a stranger. "They are not of the world," says the Lord of His disciples, "even as I, am not of the world;" and how important for the one sent into it as the messenger of Christ to maintain this.

The purpose of the message is "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light." Light is come into the world; and although He who was the Light of it when in it is gone out of it again, rejected by it, yet the light streams now from an open heaven, in principle as Paul saw it. Thus men have only to have their eyes opened to see it too. Here is their responsibility, and here too is their guilt, that they love the darkness as in our Lord's time, because their deeds are evil. Evil ever craves the cover of darkness; and there is one in the world, — alas, the prince of it, — who is ready effectually to blind the minds of those that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them (2 Cor. 4:4). So the Lord adds here, "that they may turn from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive remission of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Me."

If there were a weary heart under any of those brilliant masks which the apostle's hearers wore that day, the account with its appealing commentary, the man himself, should surely have touched them. The glory of that grace, with its remission and sanctification — all man's need met at once by faith in Him who had lifted this Saul the persecutor indeed into another sphere unknown to Jew or Gentile, was a thing unique, and which as yet had lost by repetition nothing of its freshness. He goes on to the effect upon himself, which was as lasting as it was immediate. He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: Damascus, Jerusalem, Judea, and the nations round were witnesses of that. The effect would be in souls repentant, turning to God, and in works answerable to repentance.

Here was the whole matter for which he was accused; for this the Jews had seized, and would have slain him. Yet what he witnessed was only the fulfilment of what Moses and the prophets said should come: the decision of the question of a Christ that was to suffer, and of His resurrection bringing light to Israel and to the nations.

It should be evident that the apostle does not mean that the revelation made to him was merely within the bounds of the older one. The things that are in his mind are summed up in the two points following, which he names. It is certain that there were mysteries now being revealed which had been kept secret during all time before, as that of the Church as the Body of Christ, which no Old Testament scripture even hints at. Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, were already written more than two years when Paul said this. It is not the truth that Christianity is but an illuminated edition of Old Testament revelation; nor is it the truth that the distinctive features of Christianity had not yet been made known. It is not therefore the truth that the apostle means to say this. Both things have been inferred from the closing words here; but both are entirely wrong as to the foundation facts of which Paul is professedly speaking; they are indeed borne witness to by all Scripture from beginning to end.

Festus at this point breaks in with the loud confident voice of one who has heard enough, and is prepared with his verdict. With Roman haughtiness he conceives all this to be the superstition of a Jew, the dream of a man addicted to too much reading. Much learning, to his practical mind, when gained in such by-paths of knowledge, might naturally lead to madness. But Paul replies with a quiet and respectful appeal to the better knowledge of the Jewish king; in whose presence he had been speaking therefore freely. Neither the scriptures nor the facts of the life and death of Jesus could be hid from one so well known for his interest in Jewish affairs as king Agrippa. These things had been done before the whole people, in Jerusalem their chief city, and not in a corner. And the prophets were there to answer for themselves. He concludes by a bold appeal to the king himself to make known the belief which he is sure he has in them: "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest."

Doubtless the apostle saw that a powerful impression had been made upon the king, whose words in answer, with all their lightness, seem to deprecate being pressed further at this time. If on the one hand we cannot take them to be a confession of even half-conviction, yet they do seem a half-apology for saying no more. "With little effort thou art prevailing to make me a Christian," leaves it still doubtful what a further effort might accomplish. But the more really touched he is, the more he would shrink from showing it before such an assemblage as this, while yet he is not broken down to self-forgetfulness. He seems not to have command enough over himself to say what an orthodox Jew could easily have done, that he does believe the prophets. He puts the whole question off in a way that most would think was simply banter, and which he might be glad to have taken for it, and which yet might be but a nervous plea for escape at this time. And the apostle sends after him in his retreat that memorable sigh of prayer, large enough to enfold the whole company among whom he would fain be hidden, "I would to God that with little effort or much, not only thou, but all that have heard me this day might become such as I also am, — except these bonds!"

No more effectual pleading could there be, with Agrippa as with all beside, than just this overflow of a heart so full that it cares to hide nothing! so pledged to and joyous in the truth to which it is pledged, that it need not and cannot refrain from the outpouring of its delight, in the longing that all men might share with him the plenteous blessing which chains could not restrain, though he could not wish these to any! There is no need to come between it and the reader with a comment which might rather lessen than bring home the power of that which interprets itself as the spontaneous testimony to a heart that divine grace has at once enlarged and filled to the overflow. The effect is immediate. The king rises up, as if he would not care to face a longer audience; and the whole company is dispersed. It is not saying too much, certainly, according to the evidence, but if the people are to be considered who pronounce the judgment, it is yet a testimony to the truth, that "they spake one to another, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds." Agrippa adds to Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." But who knows? Agrippa might safely say this: he was not governor of a people so well able to make trouble for him, as the men of Judea might prove to be for Festus; and if Caesar's judgment seat were more what Paul calls it afterwards, "the mouth of the lion," than the abode of justice, all the more would the Roman desire that Paul should test this rather than himself. There cannot be a doubt that the safe and happy prisoner was better prepared to do so than his judge; his case being after all in higher hands. The appeal was for the governor a not unfortunate circumstance. Paul goes on in peace whither God guides.

Subdivision 5. (Acts 27, 28.)

The way and the end: conditions and exercises.

With the apostle's voyage to Rome the book of the Acts ends. The strangeness of such an ending has been often commented upon, and naturally; especially for those who imagine a history of progress on to final triumph for the Church on earth. We expect some correspondence between the history at large and this its specimen page; and to end with a shipwreck and the apostle of the Gentiles in a Roman prison gives an impression of an unfinished fragment instead of the perfect workmanship of the divine hand. But this proceeds from a wrong conception of what the Church's course was in fact to be, which all the sorrow and disaster of near nineteen centuries has for many been incompetent to remove. Allow the Scripture-statements their full weight, and the want of correspondence will be no longer felt: for the history is really that of a shipwreck and a prison; and instead of wondering any longer at the apparent contrast, we shall perhaps suspect that the similarity may be closer than it seems, and begin asking ourselves if the one is not indeed an allegory of the other.

The very name of Rome to us at the close of so many long years as have passed is predictive of disaster. Rome has through all its existence as a dominant world-power antagonized the gospel. Submit to it it never really did. It took the name of Christian, but as a symbol of material conquest and political dominion; and thereby dragged in the dust what professedly it exalted. As already said, it was judaized rather than Christianized, and with the Jewish spirit of legality drank in its bitter animosity to the gospel. The spirit of Rome was indeed always legal; but this legality now became ecclesiastical, sacerdotal, hierarchical, and necessarily persecuting. Begin Paul's captivity it did not, for it never knew him but as a prisoner. But keep him prisoner it did, until the time of God's release came. The picture does not go as far as this; probably for the reason that after all this never has been, — never will be — complete; while what has taken place in this way is the mere mercy of God, and for us the instruction is in the causes leading to the disaster: causes which are still at work, and in which we may have part, if we do not avert it by self-judgment.

1. There are two parts in this account, the first of which consists of the voyage and shipwreck, ending with the reaching land at Melita or Malta. Here also there are two parts: the first, that in the ship of Adramyttium to Myra; the second, that in the ship of Alexandria, wrecked at Malta. The conflict of man's will with God's rule appears all through, though most conspicuously in the second part. The detail given all through should surely show us the interest that it should have for us, and that there is more in it by far than appears upon the surface.

All through Paul is a prisoner; and yet with the clear vindication of the judge from any charge which should make him rightly this. Finally he is shown to be the one to whom God has given the lives of all that sail with him. If we see in him the representative of the truth for which he stands, there can be in this no perversion of fact; and the sorrowful fact is that the truth of the gospel for which he stood has been, almost from the beginning of the Church's history until we reach the full development of the system which has Rome for its head, as it were shut up, without formal accusation perhaps, yet fettered, and scarce permitted speech; professing Christians being its courteous guard like Julius here, with a certain honor for Paul, but not freedom. Indeed Julius himself has not his choice in this: he is under authority, a centurion of the Augustan cohort, an instrument of the world power simply, and to whom in those interests with which he is identified, Paul is simply a stranger.

The meaning of his name may be variously given; that which would have significance of the kind that we are looking for, would be derived from "julus," a wheatsheaf, and might thus be "belonging to the wheatsheaf;" an enigma, no doubt, as we might expect: all here is necessarily enigmatical; but it is not impossible to penetrate the disguise.

Christ in resurrection is the significance of the one sheaf of wheat which stands out prominently in connection with the types. The sheaf of firstfruits, presented to God between Passover and Pentecost, occupies a remarkable place in that series of feasts which we easily see to be specially related to Christian truths. Christ in resurrection was also, as we know, the basis of the gospel; and in a pre-eminent way, of Paul's gospel. It is Paul's gospel that specially identifies all believers with that wheatsheaf presented to God, — that is, with. Christ gone up to Him. If Julius in such an allegorized history as we are taking this to be, represents in fact, as has already been suggested, those who, even while they might be true believers in Christ, yet were ignorant of those priceless truths with which the apostle of the Gentiles was identified, and who could thus hold the truth shut up, as it were in captivity, then the implications of the name he bore would be indeed significant. They who themselves had that Christian place of identification with the risen Christ which Paul's doctrine made so conspicuous, were yet in ignorance of the place and what belonged to it; that is, of Paul in the truth he carried; and however courteous to himself they might be, were but the instruments (yea, the imperial band) of the enemies of the truth he lived and died for. Look at the imperial band of the church fathers: do they not treat the apostle after this manner? Are they not just so many courteous Juliuses in this way?

They are bound for Italy, all these; though it may well be, not by a straight road. The first ship we find here is not going to Italy, but to the coast of Asia, and is a ship of Adramyttium — a name of which there is doubt as to the meaning, but it seems as if it might mean that "one must not haste," while Asia speaks of a "miry" shore. Spiritually at least, these things go well together. A lack of earnest diligence in the way is apt enough to have a slough for its terminus. Corinth had got so mired with the world at a very early date, though they knew little of it: they were reigning as kings, following their wills, as such a course implies, and not the guidance of the Spirit. The "best Ruler," as Aristarchus means, was with them all the way through, but we hear of him no more: he is a passenger and only that. Yet, as the Macedonian may remind us, He is the Spirit of worship, which putting God in His place is seen as of Thessalonica too, the means of "victory over that which brings into commotion." But so the start is made.

The next day they are at Zidon, still in what is properly Israelitish territory, though in fact in other hands. It means "taking the prey," and in Joshua's time we find it coming into Asher's portion (Joshua 19:28, see notes), and there with reference to victory over evil, which is indeed the portion of Asher, the "happy" saint. But in fact, as we know, in the common failure of Israel, Asher never did even conquer Zidon, which had many and great kings of its own, some of whom were in alliance with Israel afterwards. The "taking of prey," so connected, would come to have a different meaning, and imply such a career of conquest as that upon which, when become conscious of her power, the Church soon started. The victory over the world which faith in the Son of God gives became exchanged for victory by which the things of the world became the possession of the victors. Thus the parable of the mustard-seed began to be fulfilled, and the church to take rank among the powers of the world. Friends of Paul were still to be found, for whom victory over the world retained the old and contrasted principle of separation from it, crucifixion to it by the Cross. With these the apostle would still find communion, and hearts drawn to him.

But the ship of Adramyttium is bound for Asia; and starting again, the winds are contrary, and she is forced under the lee of Cyprus. Cyprus means blossom, especially of the olive and the vine, and became identified in the Grecian mind with what is fair and lovely in nature, with Venus and her worship, the soft influences which woo and win man's heart. And here indeed is how the heart, realizing that after all the winds for the Christian voyager are contrary, would shelter itself under what in nature it can plead, and with truth also, God has made for man's enjoyment. So He has; and yet how easy to make enticement of it, the ship using it as her shelter to reach the "miry" shores of Asia beyond! How all this fits together in the picture here! Was not this in fact the history of declension in the Church of God? a history so often repeated in individual experience that we cannot but know it all too well!

Not difficult is it to understand that beyond this there are dangers, which Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lycia, all in different ways express. Cilicia is said to mean "which rolls, or overturns," and to play the Cilician is to be cruel and treacherous like these. Pamphylia would mean a union of various tribes; and their history seems to correspond with this. Lycia is from lycus, a wolf, which whether referring to beast or man has no encouraging significance. In two of these names the dangers following the thirst for pleasure may be fitly indicated; the relaxation which it implies exposing to such dangers as the apostle speaks of to the Ephesians as the entering in of grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; while the union of various tribes was truly what practically the church soon came to be as mingling with the world's various interests affected and moulded it, making the diversity as apparent as the uniting tie. How soon did the Body of Christ cease to have visible expression; and the church united with the world become divided within itself!

Striking it is that here presently the end is reached of the first voyage at Myra, where the ship of Adramyttium is exchanged for another. If Pamphylia has the import which we see in it, the breaches of unity which it pictures would have need of the "ointment" of which Myra speaks. How many salves have been sought for this broken condition! And the change of ship for a ship of Alexandria is still more plainly significant. Alexandria speaks of help given to men, or better, of the warding of from them impending danger. The new ship of the church is a human means adapted to that end, while openly pointing now towards Italy.

Notice how well all of this agrees together: the perils have been shown us, following self-indulgence and love of pleasure. The new vessel from Egypt, which stands all through Scripture for that independence of God, alas, how natural, and from Alexandria, — a human device for warding off danger, — and now with her course directly Rome-ward, towards which in fact, indirectly, they have been going all the time, — all this surely speaks to us not uncertainly in what we have upon other grounds concluded to be an allegory of the Church. Most undeniably, for all who take their view from Scripture, the vessel of God's testimony has changed much since it came from His hands at the first; and there has been human shaping, taking its justification from expediency largely, — the warding off of dangers, real or imaginary. The simple eldership of the apostles, days has grown into an episcopate, more and more monarchical; and this into archi-episcopates and patriarchates, and from ministry to priesthood, and all the ranks of a hierarchy conspicuously absent from the New Testament original. The "best Ruler" is little seen, and a mere passenger: there would be danger indeed in letting the blessed Spirit have that governing place which, at the beginning, was His. We have taken a fresh start clearly, and our vessel is Egyptian — Alexandrian; and we are manifestly on our way to Rome.

But still the wind is contrary; heaven does not vouchsafe its favors for some reason; and it is with difficulty, and after many days of sailing that the vessel is got abreast of Cnidus. Cnidus means "chafing, nettling," and may be a bad augury for the new regime; and here they leave the coast of Asia for Crete.

The wind, still contrary, forces them to take refuge under the lee of Crete abreast of Salmone, a name which, like that of Salamis in Cyprus, seems to be derived from the breaking of the waves upon it. That of Crete seems to be derived from the Cherethim of the Old Testament, who in the judgment of many were its inhabitants. The meaning in that case would not be doubtful. The cherethim were the "cutters down, or cutters off," sometimes given as "executioners." But the word was also very commonly applied to the making or "cutting" of a covenant, for which as a whole sometimes the one word stood. That the covenant of the Lord should connect itself with the cutting off of evil can be no mystery to us; and significant it is that it is in turning from the "miry" shores of Asia that Crete presents itself to us. Self-judgment would have been indeed the resource for the Church bemired with the world, and it is no wonder that it should present "Fair Havens" to the buffeted ship, or that the apostle's advice should be to winter there. Final rest indeed it could not be, but yet quite helpful against winter storm; but the ship of Alexandria, under the guidance of those belonging to it, will not stay there; and Julius of the imperial band, while courteous enough to the apostle, yet approves their choice. Alexandria seems a name peculiarly significant here, and the history of the church shows here indeed how the notion of "Crete" that came from Alexandria would be in grave enough contrast with the apostle's. "Cutting off" in the shape of asceticism, and even in a covenant form, had indeed its home there. Monasticism in its pseudo-Christian form arose there: a direct descent from heathen principles and practice. "Fair Havens," with its city of the Rock (as Lasaea seems to mean) near by, did not suit with the ideal of the Alexandrians as Phenice did. Phenice means "palm," the constant figure of the righteous. Righteousness is not after all found in cutting off, and the city of the Rock intimates the corrective truth, distasteful naturally to the true ascetic. Its ideal is in this way unattainable; and when, mocked by the softness of a favorable south wind, the vessel leaves the harbor that would have saved it, the storm-blast Euroclydon descends upon it, and it is blown out irrevocably from all land.

The wind that now assails the ship is called in most manuscripts Euroclydon, but in the oldest Euraquilo. The one term means "the eastern wave," referring to the effect upon the water. The latter, the "north-easter;" which has the sanction of most of the editors. The east, as we have seen elsewhere, is the quarter that speaks simply of adversity; the north is that which speaks of darkness, mystery, and spiritual evil. Taking Euraquilo as the best-attested reading, we find it also to be the most significant. It speaks not merely of adversity, but of Satanic influence: in the case of the Church, besides persecution, of evil doctrine; and such were in fact the influences which assailed the early Christians. In the epistle to Smyrna, which stands second in that apocalyptic series in which many have learned to trace the successive stages of the Church's history, we have on the one hand the ten days of tribulation, the persecution under the Roman emperors, and on the other the blasphemy of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie. Doubtless these work together, as the shout of the hunters, which drives the deer into the trap prepared. Judaism, as we know, favored that fusion with the world as well as those defensive methods which promised best for protection from outside attack; while it was itself the most complete attack upon the vitals of Christianity. And the same two influences are, no doubt, to be seen here in the storm that hunts the Alexandrian vessel to its wreck. We must distinguish, of course, carefully, between that worldly prosperity into which, through all the assaults upon it, the church was steadily rising, and the spiritual wreck to which in this very way it was going on; until under Constantine its pilgrim and heavenly character was exchanged for an opposite one; and the gospel of grace, except perhaps with a few hidden and hunted men, was well nigh gone from the earth. We have the creed of these orthodox Nicene days, and the faith of their most eminent men in various expression, and we know with exactness what they held and taught; their doctrine as to Christ, in general orthodox enough, — as to the gospel, what the extremest ritualism may permit of it: baptism to wash away past sins, and make children of God; penance and priestly absolution, to take away sins afterward; helped, and needing to be helped, by the virtues of the saints, and even their dead bones! That was for the people of ordinary lives; but the religious life, which alone made saints, was to be found in following out what Scripture calls "the doctrines of demons, . . . forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (1 Tim. 4:1-3.) This life too was to be spent in deserts, or between monastery or convent walls; and then might attain merit which would help to save other people, — the merit of doing more than it is one's duty to do.

If scripture in hand we place ourselves in the midst of that flourishing church of the Nicene period, which the hand of Constantine has just liberated from the dungeon to put it upon the throne, — and look at it with the eyes of him who said to the Corinthians, "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us" (1 Cor. 4:8), we shall no doubt see that, spite of all the seeming prosperity, there has been in fact a change and a loss, such as would imply no less than a shipwreck; while the "honey" of nature's sweetness enjoyed might make a Melita for the released sufferers. Into the details of the 14 days of storm and drift it is harder to enter by way of exposition. The lack of food we can understand, while yet the wheat was in the ship; the fact of the safety of the voyagers depending upon that Paul whom yet they knew so little; his voice being heard once more as the storm worked on to imminent disaster: surely ears must have been opened to hear it! The shore was won, though the ship had gone to pieces; there was a pause in the progress towards Rome, and a new ship must be found to get there, though of the same Egyptian, Alexandrian build; and then by easier stages, and with fairer weather the end will soon be reached.*&**

{*The details of "the Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul" have been fully examined by Mr. Smith, of Jordanhill, in a well known volume, from which all commentaries since have necessarily borrowed. On this account, and because detail of this kind is outside the purpose and scope of the present work, I have omitted mention of it. He has fully shown the exactness of knowledge which the whole narrative displays, both of the topography of the voyage, and of the navigation of the Ancients. I pass it over with this reference.

**There are many details in the narrative which are doubtless as suggestive of spiritual meaning as those given in the notes. What was the boat, which there was so much difficulty in getting at? What was the small island which proved a temporary shelter? No doubt the helps with which the ship was undergirded suggest the similar means which have been so popular in all ages of holding together from the outside that which has not strength in itself to withstand the storms. Human methods may hold the ship together for a while, but they are but human expedients and tell the tale of weakness most unmistakably. The tackling of the ship points to what might be called the machinery of church life. How often in storms must this tackling prove itself but a menace to safety. No light from heaven shines upon the storm-tossed ship, for they had embarked upon a course of disobedience. — S.R.}

2. The incidents of Paul's stay at Melita have all one character. They show us how the favor of the islanders was won by the display of divine power acting through him in the setting aside of what was in fact the power of the enemy, but in their minds divine, and in the relief of human suffering. The chief man receives and entertains all Paul's company. The bearing of all this upon the allegorical meaning is as plain as need be. If we have indeed arrived at that period in the Church's history when Christianity became the religion of the empire, and the emperor its official head, — when in the thoughts of men it had reached the land of milk and honey, which by the application to themselves of Jewish prophecies they could believe also to be their land of promise, then there is little difficulty in what is before us now. The very acceptance of this new head changed everything, however much the old forms might be maintained, and declared to all who had heart to understand the wreck of all true church principle. It was decisive enough that the first who took this place of ecclesiastical head was a man unconverted, and (what was still more decisive according to the doctrines of the day) unbaptized; baptized at last by a denier of the deity of Christ; the slayer also of his son and of his wife. They had afterwards to invent the fiction of the bath of Constantine to cover what was ecclesiastically the sorest disgrace. Yes, the ship was wrecked, but they had reached nevertheless the land of honey, their Melita. By and by a new ship also would be found to carry them to their destination.

Yet had not in fact the serpent's power been overcome when the Pontifex Maximus, the head of heathen power, the head that had so recently and fiercely bit at Christianity, and not in vain, was now itself Christian, and putting down heathenism? According to many since, it was the fulfilment of the Apocalyptic story of the Dragon and the Woman, and the Dragon's being cast out of heaven. Was it not indeed a good that in the seat of widest earthly power the malignant forces of evil should be dispossessed by the healing and life-giving influences of heaven's sweetest grace? That is what captivates the people of Melita, who see the viper harmless and cast into the fire, and presently experience the mercy of God in the undeniable signs of divine working. Who can deny the blessings thus coming in through that wonderful change which we have been contemplating? So Paul is in the house of Publius, and the new ship is laden with things which are the thankful acknowledgment of benefits received. Yet is Paul after all a prisoner still, and the vessel's head, at much less distance than before, is pointing towards Rome!

So again we have a ship of Alexandria, and the fresh start is but a continuation of the former voyage. The vessel went under the sign of the Dioscuri, the "sons of Jupiter," Castor and Pollux, the patron divinities of sailors. Perhaps we may interpret this as showing what is certainly true, that while Jupiter himself may have passed away, the ideas born of heathenism remain to preside over the course of the state-church. The very title of Pontifex Maximus to which reference has been made, was retained by the Christian emperors for some time, and when dropped by them was revived, and at the present time is borne by the pope! It carried with it the claim of chief authority in matters of religion, and it is intended to announce this claim today.

At Syracuse they land and tarry for three days. Syracuse means "dragging unwillingly," and speaks sufficiently of the exercise of arbitrary power; which Rhegium, a "forcing the way through," intensifies. It is singular at least, that here the Dioscuri, who presided over the vessel's course, were again the patron-divinities. Puteoli ends the voyage, and takes its name from the thirty-three mineral "wells" that were there, or else from their ill-odor. Puteoli was the chief harbor of Rome, although some distance from the city. Here they found brethren, with whom at their solicitation Paul was able to stay seven days; "and so we came to Rome." The market place and the taverns complete the journey — morally, as in fact; though here also we have the meeting of the apostle with the Roman brethren.

In all this the tracing of historical fulfilment may be little detailed, but the general character of the period between the state-church and the church-state is sufficiently shown. Violence, breach of faith, pretentious assumption, characterize it; the malodorous wells (of error introduced) bring us nearly to Rome itself, though the traffic of the market and the dissipation of the tavern are needed touches to the picture. Even here Paul's heart is cheered as he looks upon the brethren; and prisoner as he is, he thanks God and takes courage. This is always the style of God's precious book: His "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," rings throughout it. The head hung down means only unbelief, and it is not in this way that Paul enters the miscalled "eternal city." All things that are seen are temporal; "things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, God hath revealed unto us by His Spirit."

3. There is yet a brief closing portion, which has a sorrowful yet tender interest for us. Once more we are made to see how, spite of all that he has experienced at their hands, the heart of Paul — in this not unlike his blessed Master surely — clings still to Israel. Three days only elapse after he has reached Rome when he sends for the chief of the Jews, to explain his position to them. They have forced him to appeal to Caesar; but he has no thought to appear before him as the accuser of his nation. Accuse them he cannot, while it is their hope of which he is partaker; and on account of that hope he is bound with that chain.

To which they reply that they have heard no evil of him; but that they have heard of the Christian sect as that which everywhere is spoken against. They would fain hear therefore from his lips an account of what he believes. Upon which a day is set, and they come to his lodging; and there from morning to evening he expounds, as only he among men perhaps could, the whole matter from their own scriptures, law and prophets. The result is the same as ever: "some assented to the things that were said, and some disbelieved." On the whole there is clearly rejection, and Paul has to leave them under the burden which the Spirit through Isaiah had long ago pronounced with regard to them. Alas, they would not be healed, but deliberately sealed up their eyes and ears against conviction. Yet they cannot prevent the outflow of a grace which will not be content to have no response from men to His long labor of love. Nay, if Israel values it not, there are others who need it. "Be it known to you therefore that this salvation of God is sent unto the nations; and they will hear it."

Yet his position at that moment was, as we have seen, a sad prognostication that as to the Gentiles also their reception of the divine message will allow no boast over the insensate Jew. Rome is the fatal word that epitomizes their history; and not Rome pagan, but Rome papal. We may refuse in our pride to accept such a sentence, — we with our three hundred years since for us Rome's yoke was broken. Yes, and whither are we tending now? But the true answer is, not in any prophesying of our own, but in the statement of the conditions which we are under as those who have taken place and responsibilities of Israel's broken off branches as the people of God today; and these conditions the apostle Paul himself has stated for us (Rom. 11:18-22): "Boast not against the branches; but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Now Rome with its claim to be the Catholic Church today, whatever abatement we may justly insist on as to this, is at least a positive proof that the Gentile body as such has not "continued" in the goodness of God. It is useless to talk of reformation and recovery: all that is but confession that the body has not continued. It is useless to plead that Rome is an apostate: apostasy is the plainest possible non-continuance. Thank God for all whom His mercy has saved from complicity with its wickedness! but the salvation of individuals, however much it may mean for them, is by no means the salvation of the Gentile body, which has had its trial, and is to be set aside. This is, I doubt not, why the Acts ends with Rome: it is the complete forecast of the issue in responsibility; although we have for this to look beyond the literal history which is but the foreshadow, to that which it has been overruled to express. It is thus like the epistles to the seven churches, which were, as we know, actually existent, and in the condition which the epistles depict at the time when these were written, yet were similarly overruled to give us the full-length history of the Church till Christ's coming again.

We are left with a touching yet cheering picture of the apostle's position in a hostile world in which nevertheless God acts still as He will, making the wrath of man to praise Him and restraining the remainder of it. The minister of Christ is fettered; the word of God not bound. And yet to common eyes this too might seem to be. Faith is needed everywhere, for God seeks and delights in faith; yet "of Him, and through Him, and for Him are all things; to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:36).